On April 4, the Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority hosted Flourish in the Miron Student Center’s Greek Lounge. The event had a purpose of celebrating self-love, natural beauty, and acceptance.
Flourish was part of a series of events presented by Lambda Theta Alpha in honor of Women’s Sexual Assault Awareness week. This specific event focused on empowering women with curly or textured hair by recognizing the beauty of natural hair and rejecting the notion that hair can only be beautiful when it is straight.
Melissa Antonio, a sophomore psychology major and community service chair of the sorority, was inspired to spread the message of acceptance and love of one’s natural beauty, so she took it upon herself to organize Flourish. “I think it ties into bringing self-confidence and encouraging women and everyone in general to be secure with themselves and embrace who they are no matter what,” Antonio said.
Lambda Theta Alpha was founded here at Kean in 1975. It was the first sorority in history formed to cater to the specific needs of Latinas in Greek life and provide them with an inclusive space. Flourish’s goals were rooted in this mission of Lambda Theta Alpha, as curly and textured hair is so common in Hispanic cultures, and the event centered on changing stigmas that can ultimately be harmful to those with this natural trait.
“No matter what hair type, girls should want to embrace their hair as it is and have an overall self-confidence boost,” Antonio said.
Katyana Deleon, a Lambda Theta Alpha sister, started the night off by talking about her hair journey. She used to straighten her hair everyday and utilized damaging hair products and care routines. “I loved to straighten my hair because I hated it, and I didn’t know how to take care of my hair. I think that that’s a common problem [among] a lot of people,” Deleon said. “We don’t really know what to do. We don’t know how to detangle. We don’t know what products are the right products. It’s just a lot of what if’s in the air on what to do for our hair.”
Approximately a year ago, Deleon transitioned back to her natural curls with the help of Joe Miguel, a hair stylist from Angel’s Salon in Elizabeth who cut her hair and advised her on healthier, more natural ways of caring for it. While she admitted it was hard to get used to such a drastic change at first, she has found that transitioning back to her natural hair has helped her with more than just her appearance.
“I found a lot of who I am becoming through this haircut. It taught me a lot of patience. It taught me dedication,” Deleon said. “It taught me how to be who I really am and not try to hide behind a style that wasn’t natural.”
Deleon’s hair journey inspired her to search for ways to document her progress, which led her to the app FROtorial. This app is a combination of Instagram and Amazon, where people can post pictures, ask questions, and get advice on how to care for their hair and the best hair products without fear of judgement. She loved FROtorial so much that she pursued and earned an internship there for digital marketing. “I chose to intern for this app because I was so passionate about the message they were sending and the information they were providing through this app,” Deleon said.
After finishing telling the story of her hair journey, Deleon shared some tips and knowledge for people looking to start their own hair journeys. These included starting with a great haircut, finding the right products for one’s hair, drying hair properly, and lightly scrunching hair. She also recommended staying away from damaging ingredients in hair products such as sulfates, parabens, silicones, and alcohol.
Miguel then did a live haircut on Antonio while the attendees held an open-floor discussion of the stigmas associated with embracing their natural hair in the workplace. Some of the main issues mentioned were that people often judged the natural hair look and associated natural curls with a lack of professionalism. However, by unapologetically embracing the hair they were born with, the sisters of Lambda Theta Alpha are working to dispel those assumptions. “We typically try to fit the standard European look: the straight hair, the skinny body. Not all of us are built that way,” Deleon said.
At the end of the event, the sisters held a raffle with a free haircut and consultation by Miguel as the grand prize so someone else would be given the chance to start their hair journey. There were also numerous smaller prizes awarded, including natural hair products and T-shirts.
While Deleon’s journey to natural hair and self-acceptance wasn’t a simple process, she recommends that everyone attempts the same for the rewards at the end of the road. This includes any person with any type of hair, as all people can benefit from confidence in the way they were born and a more natural way of caring for themselves.
“I definitely encourage everyone to embark on their journey, to start embracing who you are, and to empower your ‘fro whether it’s curly, crazy, kinky or straight hair. Your natural hair is your crown, and you should always embrace that,” Deleon said.